April 2019 Blog …. A Scary Story about a Visit to a Repair Shop

              Gen II Prius HV pack

Before too long someone is going to get hurt. It is just a matter of time. I was visiting a very large auto repair shop a few years back getting ready to teach a hybrid class there the next day and the owner was giving me a tour of his place. His service facility was clean, well-lit and he was very proud of his reputation and service.  As we walked down an isle of used and new parts on metal racks in an attached building I noticed a Toyota Prius high voltage battery pack on the lower shelve.  The front safety cover was missing. I assume it was removed to access the orange colored high voltage (HV) cables.  I stopped to point out a real safety issue. He took it well and decided to attend the class I was teaching his technicians that night. The owner had little training in hybrids. What lessons were learned?

Here is what went wrong. When the Prius came in the owners decided to replace his HV battery with a used one. The salvage yard did not have a core charge so the service manage wanted to save it as it had a computer, contactors and more.

Problem #1-The HV pack was on a metal shelve. If this battery pack had a high voltage leak the metal shelve could become live and touching the pack and the shelf could put you in the circuit. Deadly combination.

Problem #2- No sign on the live pack. The HV battery needed an orange sign on it that said “Danger!  High Voltage Present. Do not handle”.

Problem #3- The safety cover was missing on the used unit so a cover of some sort was needed to keep bare hands off the high voltage contactors.

Problem #4 The Service Plug was left in the battery. The one thing that helps keep people safe was not done.

The entire shop needed basic EMV high voltage safety training. When moving the used battery, always wear HV safety gloves with leather covers over the rubber gloves. They are required. Some shops that have the space could make a safe room for high voltage parts with a sign on the door and keep it locked. Safety First.

The owner of that repair shop unknowingly put everyone at risk with that Prius HV battery. I tested it with my DVOM and it has over 200 volts at two terminals that were uncovered. It takes only 60 volts and ¼ amp to kill.

Feb – March 2019 .. The New Honda Insight

Honda introduced the first modern hybrid to America, but not the world. That honor goes to the Toyota Prius. In December of 1999 a weird little 2 passenger car with fender skirts started showing up at Honda dealerships. That was the last century and a lot has changed since then. Honda has produced many other hybrids like the Accord, Civic, and CRZ but they never took off like the Prius did. Market share was lost and Honda Hybrid owners were not happy. A lawsuit was filed and the owner won. Sales of Honda hybrids slowed as a goggle search was not flattering. Was it the lack of electric drive at slow speeds? High voltage battery packs that set codes and needed expensive replacement? Software updates that lowered your fuel economy but did little else to fix the problems? Dealerships that seemed not to care? Or was it that the Prius was just that good? Then Ford came out with the Fusion HEV in model year (M/Y) 2010 and Hyundai/ Kia the next year. Almost every manufacturer has built a hybrid and some were really good. Has Honda found their way back or were they never there? In April of 2009, another Insight was offered as a 2010 model year. What happened to that hybrid?  It was discontinued in M/Y 2014 due to poor sales.

The newly redesigned Insight has a li-ion battery pack that the earlier Insights did not have. Honda started using lithium in their Civic in M/Y 2012 and the CRZ in M/Y 2013 and battery problems went away. The old nickel metal hydride (NiMH) had many problems as they aged. Lithium has monitor circuits for each cell and that keeps each cell in balance with the others. The “out-of-balance” codes, P1446 and P1447, are gone. The air cooled inverter and DC-DC converter are liquid cooled now so any heating issues with the power electronics are over. The one motor IMA system has been retired for a “Two Motor” CVT of sorts, unique to Honda HEVs. More about his transmission coming up. Check the box for “Interlock” systems installed. More technician safety is always a good thing. Better real world miles per gallon at 45 to 50 MPG. A four cylinder 1.5 liter LIVC (late intake valve closing) gasoline engine puts out 107 horsepower and 99 pound-feet of torque. With two electric motors this new hybrid has a net 151 horsepower and 197 pound-feet or torque.  This is a very good car. Finally Honda got this one right.

January 2019 Blog … What is meant by Level I, Level II and Level III charging?

How do I test for communication with a EV and the charger?

Level I

This is a Single Phase Alternating Current (AC) EVSE device using grounded receptacles at the most commonly available voltages and currents. In North America this typically means 120V/16A using a stand home grounded outlet. The EV owner uses their own standard charging cord (it came with the EV) that includes a J1772 end (the part that connects to the port on the car) and plugs that cord into a home electrical outlet to connect the vehicle to the grid. It is sometimes called a trickle charger.

Level II

This is a Single or Three Phase Alternating Current (AC) EVSE device at 208-240V at up to 80A but seldom uses more than 45 amps now but to “future proof” a level II EVSE there are 80 amps units for sale. The SAE J1772 document is the standard for Level II charging in North America, where the J1772 connector and charging cord are permanently fixed to the Level II charging station. These Level II EVSE are installed at homes and businesses.

Level III  This is a specification that is not in use, but is often used to describe Fast Charging.  So to be technically correct call a Level III charger a Fast Charger and those with lots of training will recognize that you have studied well.

Fast Charger

Now we have a DC charger or “fast charging.” To achieve very short charging times, Level 3 chargers supply very high voltages (300-500 volts DC) at very high currents (100’s of Amperes). SAE has set a standard for this type commonly called the “combo plug” used by American, European OEMs and Honda. Most Asian brands use a different plug called CHAdeMO, such as Nissan, Kia and Mitsubishi. Both the Combo and CHAdeMO do the same thing, charge a HV battery very quickly. Chevrolet says the Bolt, supported by Level 3 charger (CCS) can gain 90 miles (145 km) worth of range in 30 minutes, 160 miles (257 km) worth in 60 minutes, and a full 238 miles (383 km) of range in about two hours. In colder weather it takes somewhat longer.

Now you know.


Oct – Nov – Dec 2019 … What’s in their trunk may tell you a lot

If you’ve been running a shop any length of time, I’m sure you run into the “trunk full of things” when you want to “just do the right thing” and check the air in the spare tire (if they have a spare!) I started my shop in 1977. We worked exclusively on Honda cars and Honda had full size spare tires for a long time. If it was a hatchback there was a lot less stuff back there, but the trunk was really a place for people to store their junk. Sometimes you would learn a lot about a person based on what you pulled out of that trunk to get to the spare tire. Getting a flat back then, in strange place, made car owners take care of their own flat on the side of the road. This was long before we had cell phones. I had this one customer when I was in my twenties who was a political activist and she was probably all of 70. The signs in her trunk were all about the feminist movement because it was the seventies. I was intrigued by her signs, but mostly by her actions. She would literally go out and protest on the side the road or march with people so women could gain the rights that they were denied.  I admired her and loved to visit when she had her 4 door Civic serviced at my shop. I was talking to an older woman at Church this month about that experience and she related to me that when she was in college her parents they told her “the reason why we are sending you to college is to find a husband”.  That was not the reason why she went to college … so after the first year she was back home talking to her parents again and they asked her “did you find somebody?” Her answer was “no”. She explained that she went to college to learn and educate herself about the things that she wanted to do in her life. She also became an activist. She was in college in the fifties when I was just a boy. Another amazing woman.

The next time you are checking somebody’s spare tire in a messy trunk, note what the protest signs say, if they have any. You will know what is left to be done in America as the work in not finished yet. “Black lives matter” or “Ban the Bomb” or a whole host of other things are on people’s minds. Rather than get upset about what you don’t like on that sign, remember; the people that are out there are not holding a political office, usually not wealthy and many times not in any high paying job because if that was the case, they probably wouldn’t protest for fear it would affect their job or their career or their standing in the community. These people, in this case these older women, really made a difference. As I head into my somewhat senior years thinking back as a young man in my twenties and thirties how much I admired these woman, I really wish I could remember their names. But I do remember she drove a Honda Civic 4 door Sedan. My wife, Deborah, was visiting with someone here in Worcester. Deborah has taken my last name so when Deb was introduced, this woman told Deb “my mother had her car serviced at your husband’s Honda shop” and as they visited it was clear that her mom was that woman. It was that woman who had protested. It was that woman that gave me a reason to write this article and think about how important older people are, men and women. People that show the younger ones what needs to be done in a democracy. Those who stand on a street corner with a whole lot of people just holding a sign asking people to remember our veterans, our poor, our hungry, or whatever it is that is “right and just”. People with a conscience that know what needs to be done, at Christmas and all year long. Are you that person?

September Blog 2018 .. Passion

I ran an auto repair shop for over a quarter century. What did it teach me? Patience. Financial awareness. Planning. Listening. Discipline.

These qualities served me well as boss, husband, teacher and father. I was reminded that as we age and keep an open mind, we will be presented with new ways of displaying the traits of a mature adult. Young people will learn from you and sometimes comment when they see the actions match the words. In a world of constant BS from politicians, con-men and scammers … a little truth can go a long way. Just an honest answer, short and to the point, can help guide young people to their truth.

Case in point. Deb and I spent two weeks in Europe, both learning and teaching. I meet over 100 college students at three different Dutch schools. One young man approached me after a one hour lecture plus Q &A and made this statement; “How can you be so passionate about EVs and so calm in how long it is taking to get more people to buy them?”  My answer “It takes a long time for any new technology to catch on. We will get there because the answer to sustainable transportation is electric drive. There are no other good solutions.”  He seemed OK with that. I also asked a question that I have asked hundreds of American auto technology students and that is “Will you stay in the auto repair business after you graduate?”  That answer is all too revealing. 60% say “No”. I understand that 18 to 21 year olds don’t know what career to enter as everything seems possible. But 60 % is a big number.  One Dutch student that I have gotten to know well when he visited ACDC a few years back took some advice I had given him “Do something that helps a social problem”. Deb and I had lunch with him on our trip last week and he was excited to tell me how he travels to South Africa as a crew leader installing a Dutch designed water treatment plant that is the size of a tractor trailer. In some parts of that country the drinking water is polluted. He used his automotive repair skills and his passion to help others to do something good. He is 24. This small plant runs on a diesel generator. This new generation, in America and many other countries, want to help. They want a meaningful job. They are not “tricked” by money as one man my age put it. Will electric cars be that motivation? Will the new technicians see fixing electric cars be that “social problem” that a tech can feel good about. I will keep asking the new men and women at the colleges I visit. I will ask their teachers too.  Will this make the answer 90% “Yes I am staying in the business!”



What is a “HOOD CHECK?” July 2018 Blog

Reducing Come Backs and Stress  

As a Shop Owner or Manager, a “come back” can be the worst part of your day. I remember a time when my new tech left the dipstick on the bench. Delivered the car and the customer was really upset. I was as well, but I needed to make it right for the customer and also make plan to keep those types of mistakes from hurting our reputation. We told everyone we “Fix it the First Time”, but we didn’t. How do you handle this with your employees, all of them, not just the tech?

After some thought back in 1984 (the shop was opened in 1977), I came up with this idea. Before the tech closes the hood for the last time, they must ask for a “Hood Check”. In my shop it was simple. A tech just yelled out “Hood Check,” and someone – could be most any employee – came over. What were they looking at the hood? Anything that looked off. This process, that took all of two minutes, was to ensure that everything was OK under the hood. The tech handed the “hood checker” the vehicle’s work order. Was the dipstick all the way in … oil cap tight … any rags, pens or loose nuts under there? After you open the hood, you own everything under it for many years to come, right? Even if the tech never touched the battery cables, twist the cables with both hands, one on each post. Are they tight? Many will not be. Why did the techs at Van Batenburg’s Garage have to submit themselves to this? Simple: If it was right on, they got a pat on the back. If not, they learned a lesson. The end result was no more foolish comebacks that could have been avoided. Even the boss had to yell out “Hood Check.” Did I ever get caught? Yes, but that was a lesson I didn’t quickly forget. Would you believe our comeback rate was less than two a year? It’s a great way to break in a new recruit, even if he or she has been a tech for decades. It is the culture in your shop that reduces comebacks more than anything else. Think about this the next time you slam down the hood at the end of the job.

What about a clutch or CV joint job? Is it worth putting it back on the lift when the road testing is done? Sure, if you removed or replaced an engine, transmission or axle. Less stress equals less comebacks.

Craig Van Batenburg


May 2018 ACDC Writes a College EV/PHEV/HEV/FCEV book plus more

ACDC New College Level EMV Text Book

What does it take to write a college text book and why did Craig (and many others helping) do it? It is the single largest project I can remember in recent history and is still on going as it is not finished. The book will be published and sent to schools the August.


Let’s start with why?  There are two well-known college text books on the market that were written by two well respected automotive authors, both of them are full time writers, Jim Haldeman and Jack Erjavic. I know the well and have helped both in their hybrid writings. I was paid to work with Jim years ago and Jack and I had a deal that well through. Their books are as good. So why reinvent the wheel?  I was asked by many college and high school instructors to do this project. They wanted a textbook with the continuity of my on-line webinars and live classes. They wanted cut-away parts that matched the lessons. They wanted work / task sheets written for real work problem.  They wanted a complete package. So the reason why is the same as to my existence in the automotive repair field. That is why I opened a Honda only repair shop in 1977. Why I opened ACDC in 1999. The industry needs help.

Here is a link to the book, the extra resource and pricing.http://www.fixhybrid.com/acdc-college-level-emv-text-book/

So what has it taken so far?  I have hired other industry professionals to help. Al Playter, an Auto Teacher in Canada, Cyriel Kootstra from Holland to write the light duty diesel/hybrid chapter, Jeff Gouviea from Up Your Voltage fame to write they Heavy Duty (Class 4 to 8) HEV /EV chapter. All experienced in that field. Hany Shaker from Cairo, Egypt is doing the task sheets and I still need more help. I have hired shop owners to proof read and make suggestions, like Eugene Victorivitch Tomachinkski (my favorite Russian) and many others. Carlos Vargas, one of the smartest seniors at the local technical High School, is working at the ACDC training center after school and this summer. I have hired Dustin Hopkins to take over some work from DJ Goins who has been with ACDC since he graduated from High School few years back so DJ can scan more EMVs and help get scope data. The editor Darcy Adshead (she has done the last two ACDC books) and Damian Adshead is here to make my photos more presentable and do the graphics. It is a large team effort that started last October when Darcy and I met for a morning to map out the plan. I like the work but not the hours. We are self-publishing. That means we are not printing 5,000 copies overseas to save money and make more profit. All of our books are printed in Tennessee. They are all full color and spiral bound so they lay flat on your workbench. The support materials most likely will still be developed and posted on line after the books is done.


A few last thoughts. I am in a hurry to get this done because if you are waiting to learn this new and exciting technology, every year you wait, it gets to be a steeper climb.  This book will help. You can pre order.


Last edit May 3, 2018

March 2018 Blog … Your 12 volt Brain needs a Higher Voltage Setting

If you first learned about cars with a 12 volt system that ran on gasoline or diesel you were, without knowing it, developing what I call a “12 volt brain”. When you were a small child and stood by the family car (or a friend’s car) you did not have to be told what a car sounded like when it was cranking, especially if it would not start. After repeatedly hearing that familiar “rur…rur… rur and maybe then click … click … click and nothing. It became a part of what a car does. The 12 volt brain was learning even before you knew you wanted to fix these things. Your automotive classes in college are now in conflict with some of that intrinsic knowledge and you must relearn what a high voltage system can do, that was not possible with a mere twelve volts. Time to develop a high voltage brain. This will be exciting and challenging as well. It will lead to a revolution in transportation that was last seen between 1890 and 1910. Those two decades set the stage for an affordable gasoline powered world. The future is electric and it is time to learn the how and why.  We are here to help.

We lost a Great Man and Friend 10 Years Ago. Remembering Stan Stephenson

February 8th, 2008. 2:12pm in room 676 at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Pennsylvania; Stan Stephenson, his son Peter, Linda (a very close friend of Peter’s), and myself were together holding hands, holding each other and saying goodbye to a Father, friend, and one powerful man. Stan, like so many men his age kept his problems to himself. He took care of business, made sure those he loved were doing well and stepped in when they were not. His list of admirers was long and over the two days he was in the hospital for the last time many of his followers came by to wish him well. Young and old, relatives and business related friendships. Stories were told in the waiting room and next to Stan as he lay in bed listening but unable to say much. Just 11 months earlier many of us saw Stan at his wife’s Adel’s funeral. That was when I met Peter for the fist time. Peter is an only child and lives in New Mexico. “Like Father, Like Son” the saying goes and it is true. Peter is also a lot like his Mother. So not even a year after Peter lost his Mom, there he is holding and kissing his Father as they say goodbye. The way many of us knew Stan was through Motor Age magazine and for the older friends Chilton and other auto related endeavors that Stan loved so much. But Stan was a Father and Husband. He knew his responsibilities in those roles and did his job. He also adopted, in a way, many interns that were lucky enough to pass the test of being worthy of Stan’s attention. One such lucky lady was Shahla. Shahla came to visit Stan the day before he passed on and she was very sad. Shahla and I knew each other so we spent hours visiting. We spoke about her relationship to Stanly, as some people called him, and it became clear to us that Shahla was the daughter Stan never had. Two other men, Tony Molla and Bill Canon, had also visited Stan over those last two days and they too knew that Stan has guided and shaped their lives in ways that a father would guide his son, the way Stan was with Peter. This surreal time was a moment for me to once again take stock of why we are here, the finality of death and how one can live his life. Stan Stephenson knew how to live, and how to inspire those that cared enough to be real. He hated anything phony, was never impressed with flash and glitz. What mattered to Stan was speaking up, truth telling, and keeping an open mind in the process. You always knew where you stood with Stan and how he stood on subjects that really mattered to him.


Stan was powerful. I have wondered what makes some men powerful and others not. A few years back I discovered that generosity and a deep understanding of responsibility made men powerful. Stan was all that. His giving of himself, his time, advice, getting his interns connected to their passion and to people that made jobs happen for them. Stan was smart and wise. He wrote about things that came true years later. Stan was leading the way for so many ideas whose time had not yet come but Stan knew it needed to happen and soon. Stan was a talent scout; he knew what people often didn’t know about themselves. He saw the good in you and if you were willing to hear it (not everyone was) he would point out the way to success. Stan left this world a much more honest place. He did his job well so Peter now can go forward with a gift of Stan’s making. Peter knows what is important. Peter had a Dad that knew stuff.

December / January 2018 Flying High

Deb and I took to the rails at the end of December and boarded an Amtrak train in Rhode Island and headed to Atlanta, Georgia. We arrived on January first and picked up our mobile office- classroom (a 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid) and drove to Memphis, Tennessee to visit our friend, Jason, of some 30 years. Jason is a pilot that flies a commercial twin prop with things like human organs and such that need to get to hospitals fast. He wasn’t always a commercial pilot. When I meet Jason he was 29 and I was 37. We volunteered together in Boston to help fix up an old building that housed a not-for-profit woman’s organization. That was 1987. We had a few things in common. We were both short (although that is relative), had drive, ambition and a big heart. When Jason’s roommate moved out Jason moved into my place (this was before I met the lovely Deborah who later became my wife). Jason was working for a big computer company and that looked like lifetime job. It wasn’t. Then he left Worcester for a job in Albuquerque, NM. He had been a Civil Air Patrol Pilot in Worcester and loved to fly so he volunteered with the New Mexico Civil Air Patrol and continued to help people. Getting a commercial pilot license is difficult and without military service or lots of money almost impossible. Jason had neither one. But he continued on and after many jobs that were not great but paid the bills his dream was still alive. Ten years went by and we stayed in touch but still no commercial pilot license. Then twenty years and he was still doing telemarketing. More years passed and then so did his parents. They were not rich but the inheritance helped pay for more training and after 28 years of sticking with it, Jason passed every test and celebrated by calling me with the good news…but no job flying. Applications went out but now he is in his mid-50’s. Then it happened!  11 months ago Jason moved to Memphis and now every night he arrives at the airport around midnight and takes off about 1am for a round trip to Birmingham, Alabama. I have made a lot of friends, in and out of the automotive business, but few have stayed with it this long for their dream job. We can all learn from my old roommate Jason. You are never too old to chase your dreams.